I can almost hear the clank and shudder of the machinery in the hulking, turn-of-the-century brick shed tucked onto a forgotten, cobbled stub of Hamilton Street — a stretch that, until very recently, there was not much cause to visit. This place is a sort of urban archaeological site, where evidence of the building's history, as a machine shop and later a food-packing plant, remains in the form of picturesquely crumbling brick and chipped plaster and exposed steel support structures.
Its current incarnation, as Love City Brewing, is, thankfully, its most visitor-friendly.
"There's a real industrial history, and we still use it for manufacturing. We're using it for its original purpose," said Melissa Walter, who opened the place in April with her husband, Kevin, a former Iron Hill brewer who decided to strike out on his own. (Melissa is a former therapist, which is theoretically good training for a bartender, though she mostly handles back-office work.) It was the building that sold them on this burgeoning neighborhood, which is often called Callowhill, but which newcomers such as the Walters tend to call by its Realtor-friendly rebrand, Spring Arts.
It took almost a year of renovations to repurpose the cavernous space, which was a mixed-martial-arts gym when they took it over — all drop ceilings and gym mats and stale sweat.
These days, hopheads crowd around the long, polished-wood bar or pitch darts at a board on one of the abundant, unfinished walls overlooking the shiny fermentation tanks and sampling brews.
In the case of Love City, the brews are meant to be accessible, including everything from lagers to stouts to (God forgive them) a pumpkin seasonal. The flagship is the Eraserhood — a hazy, juicy IPA whose popularity surpassed the Walters' expectations. "We call it Northeast-style IPA. I can't in good faith name something 'New England-style,'" Walter said. Because, Tom Brady.
Under recently reformed state liquor laws, they're able to offer a full bar as long as it's all Pennsylvania wine, spirits and beers. The most dangerous offering (sobriety-wise) is probably a "boilermaker flight," a $12 sampler of three shots of liquor accompanying three 5-ounce beer chasers. I opt for the Love Dog, a cocktail made with IPA, Philly-made Rowhouse gin and grapefruit juice; it's pleasantly tart and refreshing once I get past the inexplicable salt rim.
The food menu here is scant, though a rotating crew of food trucks pull right up inside, bringing, alternately, burgers, barbecue, sushi or ramen. Or, customers are welcome to bring in takeout, such as the excellent tacos from El Purepecha just down the street, and set the Styrofoam containers right on the bar.
"It created a destination: it's the new Brewerytown," said Melissa — who then, considering those are fighting words, carefully walked it back. "It's like, possibly, a second Brewerytown."
1023 Hamilton St., Philadelphia, 215-398-1900, lovecitybrewing.com
When to go: It's a babies-and-beers scene on weekend afternoons, with a livelier (and older) crowd as the day wears on. It's open 4 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday, and noon to midnight on weekends.
Bring: Your date to a show at Union Transfer around the corner, or anyone who refuses to go to a bar with fewer than three IPAs on the menu.
What to order: My favorite is the Unity IPA, which is balanced and slightly citrusy — but go for a flight of four pours ($8) to choose yours.
Bathroom situation: A hallway of narrow stalls, each with its own unique (and, in some cases, nightmarish) artwork, plus one of those awkward communal trough sinks. There are also baby-changing tables (see: when to go).
Sounds like: On my visit, a noisy 92 decibels of what appeared to be a Clash greatest-hits album playing start to finish.